Reading #1. In the early 1960s sociologists Rodney Stark and John Lofland studied the first conversions to the Unification Church or “Moonie” cult in the United States as a means of identifying why people convert, with the following scientific conclusions:
Quote: Proselytizing bore fruit only when it followed or coincided with the formation of strong social attachments, typically family ties or close personal friendships. Successful conversion was not so much about selling beliefs as it was about building ties, thereby lowering the social costs and raising the social benefits associated with changing one’s religious orientation. The converse was also true. Recruitment failure was all but assured if a person maintained strong attachments to a network of non-members. Many people spent time with the Moonies and expressed considerable interest in their doctrines but never joined. In nearly every case, these people had strong on-going attachments to non-members who disapproved of the group. By contrast, those who joined were often newcomers to San Francisco and thus separated from their family and friends. In short, social attachments lie at the heart of conversion, and conversion tends to proceed along social networks. This discovery has been replicated in scores of subsequent studies all over the world.
Reflection Question: do you agree? What are the positive and negative implications of this?
*Reflection Question 1.1.5:
Laurence R. Iannaccone, The Market for Martyrs, http://www.religionomics.com/erel/ S2-Archives/Iannaccone%20-%20Market%20for%20Martyrs.pdf (accessed June 15, 2007).
The photo “Disciple Making 101” is by David Kueker.
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.